Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Boll Weevil and Peanut Butter.

I have written in another family story about my mother blaming the tiny bug called the "boll weevil" for our family giving up cotton farming.

The farm was in the community of Oak Hill. (Oak Hill is in Newton County near the Henry County line and also near Rockdale County.(about 30 miles Southeast of Atlanta). Cotton was king in the South, and most farmers made their living by raising cotton. When the boll weevil infested the cotton plants, it wiped out the cotton farmers’ profits. Many farmers lost their whole year's wages.


My father got a job in a nearby textile mills in Newton County and moved our family into Porterdale, a “model mill town” in the fall of 1922. I was born the next year

Giving up farming for life in a Textile town was a difficult decision. My father, also in failing health thought this his only option after the boll weevil wiped out his whole years profits.

However, Porterdale became "home sweet home" to my family. It was a great place to grow up with dedicated school teachers, as well as many church and community activities. My brothers, Tom and Jack who served in the Armed Forces during World War II, talked with such nostalgia about Porterdale, all their buddies declared they were looking forward to one day visiting Porterdale.

But Mama, in a time of class as well as race divisions was aware that "mill workers" were considered low class. She said she first thought of Porterdale as "the jumping off place,"a place where she would never have lived had it not been for the pesty, destructive Boll Weevil.
Mama loved the farm and she sure had a "green thumb" in growing flowers in our small plot of ground as well as pots of flowers growing on the front porch.

Aunt Cora, Mama's older sister visited from Atlanta a week or so every year in her old age. After breakfast every morning she would say to Mama, "Lets go out and sit in the garden awhile."
She and Mama would walk the few feet out the front door, and sit on the porch swing or in one of the comfortable rocking chairs amid the pots of flowers Mama had blooming.


We are told boll weevils first came to the United States from Mexico eating through Texas all the way East into the cotton fields in Alabama and Georgia.
I grew up hearing the boll weevil blamed for much of the continued povety in the South following the Civil War Between The States.


When the Cotton Factory Owners moved South looking for cheap labor, they apparently found plenty of hungry people, both Black and White looking for work. Early on, even children were hired for some of the jobs early on and later as soon as they were old enough. The Cotton Boll Weevil took people out of cotton fields into cotton mills.

So I was amazed to learn that someone actually built a monument to the boll weevil in Enterprise Alabama in 1919.
The 13- and- a -half feet tall Boll Weevil Monument consists of a statue of a lady in a flowing white gown, with arms stretch high above her heard to display a big black boll weevil. It is surrounded by a lighted fountain. It seems that two enterprising business men (H.H. Sessions, C.W. Baston) in Enterprise Alabama determined that peanuts would make a good crop to plant where cotton had been grown.

Dr. George Carver of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute also did research to find as many products as possible using peanuts. .
Carver did not invent peanut butter but did popularize the use of peanut butter and found hundreds of industrial uses for the peanut plant. It is hard to believe that when cotton was king there was "no such thing" as peanut butter?

I like the story Gregg Lewis , my son-in-law tells about George Washington Carver's conversation with God. In Carver's words: "I said to God, Mr. Creator, I would like to know all about the creation of the world." And God answered, "Little man, your mind is too small to understand creation, ask something more your size.
Then I said, Mr. Creator, I would like to know all about the little peanut." Big men like Dr. George Washington Carver are brilliant enough to understand human limitations. Little men like whats-his-name in California who brag about their atheism are too small to ever see more than an inch beyond their nose and beleive in anyone or anything they cannot fully comprehend.

Albert Einstein said, “The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious . It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead.” Einstein’s view is shared by other great scientists like Niels and Bohr, who concluded there is room in a rational universe for incomprehensible wonders.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gregg tells the story, about George Washington Carver's conversation with God. Here it is in Carver's words: "'I said to God, Mr. Creator, I would like to know all about the creation of the world.' And God answered, 'Little man, your mind is too small to take it in. Ask something more your size. 'Then I said 'Mr. Creator, I would like to know all about the peanut.'"

Love that quote! Debi

Emma said...

Hi, I was wondering why Peanuts were grown instead of cotton, and if it was because the Boll Weevil wouldn't touch the peanuts? I think they might want to re-think that one as I've just found a weevil in my peanut butter! I'm having jam now :)

Ruth said...

Emma...I do no know if you are serious in your comment. i doubt you found a "boll weevil" in your peanut butter. Perhaps a fly or roach??

Mike Bock said...

It was great to visit with you this past week-end. Hope to see you agaiin before so long. Happy Birthday!

bmpharmacy said...

Following World War II the development of new pesticides such as DDT enabled U.S. farmers again to grow cotton as an economic crop, but at great expense and environmental risk. In 1978 a test was conducted in North Carolina to determine feasibility of eradicating the weevil from the growing areas.

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